Tue, 06 Mar 2001

Madurese refugees observe Day of Sacrifice in fear

JAKARTA (JP): While millions of Indonesian Muslims celebrated Idul Adha Islamic Day of Sacrifice peacefully on Monday, hundreds of Madurese refugees observed it in fear following bloody ethnic riots in Sampit, Central Kalimantan.

Tightly guarded by dozens of police officers, some 100 Madurese refugees conducted Idul Adha prayers solemnly albeit in fear, in a field in front of Kota Waringin Timur Regency office, Sampit, Central Kalimantan.

Antara reported that the officers were seen standing guard near the area where hundreds of empty praying mats provided by the regency administration had been placed in the field, which was also being used as a shelter for 20,000 refugees.

Meanwhile, in Jakarta, more than 2,000 poor people flocked to Istiqlal grand mosque, many grabbing slices of meat prior to official distribution.

The mosque's committee planned to give 1,500 coupons to the poor in an effort to make the distribution orderly, but people became impatient and many took meat without using the coupons.

Some women were seen trampled upon by others when trying to fight for the free meat of cattle slaughtered for Idul Adha.

No serious injuries were reported but a door was broken by a group of people in their efforts to carry meat into the mosque where several state officials, including Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri were conducting prayers.

The number of livestock slaughtered during the day was reportedly lower than normal amid fear of the disease anthrax which has already killed a number of people this week.

The number of cows and goats slaughtered in Istiqlal mosque decreased by almost 50 percent. Last year, the mosque committee slaughtered 12 cows and 25 goats, while on Monday, only seven cows and 10 goats were sacrificed.

Several other mosques also reported a decrease in the number of livestock slaughtered during the holy day.

But an official at the city's husbandry agency, Hery Indiyanto claimed his office have yet to find any cows or goats slaughtered on Monday which were carriers of the disease.

In Batam island, Riau, an official of Batam animal quarantine office, Suhartini, claimed that animals slaughtered there for Idul Adha were free from anthrax.

"These animals have been declared free from anthrax and are healthy enough to be consumed," Suhartini said, adding that 450 cows, 2 buffaloes and 672 goats were slaughtered on Monday.

The Idul Adha celebrations were concentrated in Central Batam grand mosque with a sermon delivered by Syharin Harahap from the North Sumatra State Islamic Institute.

But not all people were aware of anthrax, and many mosques' committees in Bandung, West Java admitted they didn't know that livestock should carry "health certificates".

An official at Bandung grand mosque Yahya Azlani admitted that he didn't know that the animals should carry a "free-anthrax label from the local husbandry office.

The disease was first reported in Hambalang village, Citeureup district in Bogor, West Java in January this year which infected some 20 residents and killed two of them.

The outbreak triggered fear that the disease could quickly spread to other people particularly because it coincided with the Idul Adha celebration where Muslims slaughter livestock so that they can be distributed to the poor.

But so far no livestock has been identified as being infected with anthrax.

Meanwhile, in Pekanbaru, Riau, thousands of people, including Megawati's husband Taufik Kiemas, conducted Idul Adha prayers in front of the governor's office.

Preacher Tengku Dahril who led the praying, collapsed while delivering his sermon. He admitted that he was tired after jogging in the morning prior to praying. (25/26/jun)